Sketch for a Fireplace Overmantel
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Francesco Antonio Franzoni
Italian, Rome, about 1789
21 1/16 x 16 3/4 in.

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Elaborately decorated with emblems and symbols of the patron's family, this terracotta relief was made as a study for a large marble mirror frame. It would have been placed above the mantel in the second floor drawing room of the Braschi family's grand Italian palace in Rome. The artist, Francesco Antonio Franzoni, drew upon a classical vocabulary for the design, incorporating putti and Roman military objects around the frame. Military trophies adorn the relief, including a suit of armor, helmet, flags, shields, spears, axes, and the prow of a ship, referring to the family's illustrious political triumphs. The many religious emblems, such as a chalice, cross, crozier, stole, miter, papal tiara, and keys of office were appropriate to this fireplace design because, as a member of the Braschi family, Pope Pius VI called this palace home.

The loose handling of details apparent in the plumed helmet, the lion's face, and the military shields indicate that this was a preliminary sculptural sketch known as a bozzetto. A nineteenth-century photograph shows the now-lost fireplace as it was eventually built, with green-and-white marble and gilt bronze emblems of the Braschi family.